Thursday, 15 November 2012

MCR Artists Books III : People

The little heroes I met at Manchester Artists Book Fair are absolutely deserving of their own post, making this the final entry in an indulgent blog triptych. While Laurie took over manning the stall I went to spend some of my earnings and meet the people behind the books; literally and metaphorically.

One of the first stallholders I visited was Cally Barker, and I instantly fell in love with her knitted book covers. She described herself as the wild knitter of Bedfordshire and I can see why. Taking on classic pieces of design and master's paintings with wool, the other crafters must certainly raise eyebrows over their biege cardigan patterns. I had a lot of warmth for this lady, as she quite rightly declared, "well it wouldn't be a book fair without some penguin classics, now would it?"

Next I talked to this chap, Alex Pritchard. No stranger to a book fair it turns out, he was exhibiting thought-provoking books that put the planet we call home into brain-exploding (or imploding) perspective. In front of him you can see his Pocket Orrery (above); that's a book of the planets at relative size to you and me, with removable pages to create your own scale model. He even made the little bags.
Truly wonderful stuff, but his pièce de résistance for me however, was this badboy:

The preface states: "In this book there are 316,227 dots each representing a star. For each 'star' in this book imagine another copy of this book. That is how many stars are within our galaxy. Carrying on this train of thought, imagine that each dot is a galaxy. For each 'galaxy' there is another book of dots. That is the estimated number of galaxies in the entire universe." I walked around the rest of the fair with this information reverberating around in my skull. 'The universe is utterly awesome', I thought.

Without getting mushy about this guy, he really was a bit of a smiling gem. Even reminded me a bit of Prof Brian Cox. You can visit AP's online store here to buy your own paper interplanetary nebulas, etc.

The next illuminating individual I met was Jan Hopkins, the miner's daughter who, amongst other things, wires books with simple yet smart circuitry. Particularly taken with her You Are Here projects (above) in which LEDs are activated by finger pressure, I feel she was the exhibiting artist who most pushed what books could do. Particularly relevant in the age of digital kindle "books", I think I'd choose the hands-on joy of her electronic paper every time. Catch all her works in progress here:; who knows what she'll try next.

My personal favourite / the stand at which I parted with most money was that of Café Royal Books, where I picked up 2 issues of publisher & editor-in-chief Craig Atkinson's photography zines.

Inside and out monochromatic scenes of life completely whetted my visual appetite. Reminiscent of the candid photography of Martin Parr, each page hung still in the air like a carefully pitched note. Exquisite, striking, gorgeous, in short all of Café Royal's publications were right up my street, and I will be following them closely from now on.

As a final word, there was one person at the book fair that I never met. Infact, no-one did. The stallholder next to us didn't turned up, generating much mystery and bafflement, with some visitors even asking if I was her.
Forever a mystery, I drew a picture of what I think she might look like. If you see her, tell her Synthia says hi.

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